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West trying to boost Northern Trust Open

NBA legend promotes golf tourney locally; city and Champions Tour hasn’t found sponsor for SCV event

Posted: August 3, 2009 10:37 p.m.
Updated: August 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Basketball legend Jerry West stands over the 18th green at Valencia Country Club on Friday. West was in town to help secure sponsorship and promote the Northern Trust Open, which is played at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

 
While any hope of a professional golf event in Santa Clarita in 2010 lingers in limbo, basketball legend Jerry West was in the Santa Clarita Valley Friday promoting an event 30 miles away.

The Basketball Hall of Famer and Lakers legend is the tournament director for the Northern Trust Open, played at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. He golfed with a group of potential sponsors Friday at Valencia Country Club, the site of an annual Champions Tour event since 2001.

While West is doing promotion for the Northern Trust Open, there is still little, if any, hope of a Champions Tour return to Valencia Country Club and the Santa Clarita Valley in 2010.

Bill Oakley, director of tournament business affairs for the Champions Tour, said Monday, “I haven’t heard anything,” in regards to the future of a tournament in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Jason Crawford, economic development director for the city of Santa Clarita, said the city has continued to look for a presenting sponsor for an event.

AT&T ended its sponsorship of the event in 2009.

“Our hopes are it will happen in 2010, but if not, we’re going to keep working to bring it back as soon as we can find the right sponsor,” Crawford said.

He said if the city is unable to help find a sponsor, it will try and bring the event back in 2011.

Crawford said the city has sent out packets to businesses and held meetings in an effort to locate a presenting sponsor, but the state of the economy, he said, has made things more difficult.

Meanwhile, the Northern Trust Open has West as a draw for its tournament and the 71-year-old said the Los Angeles-area PGA tournament is reaching out to communities like the Santa Clarita Valley, which now may be professional-golf deprived.

“We want to make this a Southern California event, from the West valley to Santa Clarita to Newport to Glendale to Pasadena. Everywhere,” West said. “We want to reach out to people and let them know we have a great event here.”

West, who said he watches more golf on TV than basketball these days and has been playing golf for nearly five decades (and playing it well, as he once shot a 63 at Bel-Air Country Club), was approached to help with the tournament by sports management company the Wasserman Media Group. He accepted because of the charitable aspect of the PGA TOUR and the Northern Trust Open and the challenge.

“This is another form of competition,” West said. “I’ve been in the basketball world working in management and I know the difficulties of trying to assemble a team. You need stars. You need a history. ... We want to really get back to those days and get the bigger stars to come here and play and that’s what you do as an executive.”

Phil Mickelson won the Northern Trust Open in February. But Tiger Woods hasn’t played the event since 2006.

West said he has reached out to Woods’ people in attempt to get him back for February 2010.

“I’d say for the record, it’s still a very prestigious tournament because of the field it gets, but in terms of interest, obviously if the PGA TOUR management group tends to get involved, it feels like it needs to grow,” West said on the health of the Northern Trust Open. “That’s why we’re here.”

In 1998, when the event was the Nissan Open, it was played at Valencia Country Club.

Woods finished second after a playoff.

West said he would return to the Santa Clarita Valley to promote the event and discuss its charitable efforts “in a second” if there was enough interest.

Meanwhile, Crawford said the city will keep trying to get a sponsor for a Champions Tour event.

The Champions Tour sets its schedule for the following year in October.

Consider that the absolute deadline.

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